Should you vote for the man or for the party?

Angela Epstein is torn between voting for her current, Jewish Labour MP, or moving to the Conservatives

May 10, 2017 19:31

Let me tell you about our local MP: a Jewish boy, born and bred in the area, who has devoted the span of his political life to serving the needs of the home town he knows so well.

Chuck in a dash of experience in ministerial positions, plus time in the shadow cabinet, and he is, you’ll agree, the perfect representative for the people of our constituency. Indeed, as any experienced matchmaker would surely observe: “darling, what’s not to like?”

And yet, come judgment day — or rather June 8 — something could be holding me back from doing the shidduch between pencil and ballot paper.

You see Ivan Lewis, who has served my constituency of Bury South since 1997, is a Labour MP.

And for the first time in his exemplary two decade tenancy, I’m struggling to contemplate voting for him.

Why ? Put simply, a vote for Lewis is a default vote for Corbyn.

How can I, in all conscience put my cross next to a party stewarded by a man who has been a “friend” to Hammas and whose members have shown — with minimal reproach — the ugly face of antisemitism?

Not that the alternative is so terrible, either. Setting aside throwaway runners from Ukip, the Greens and Monster Raving Loony party (that’s not Lib Dem, but add them to the list), the Conservative candidate for Bury South, Robert Largan has a credible pedigree.

He is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel (though if he wants to gain traction in the Borscht Belt of north Manchester, one of the largest concentrations of Jews in the country, how can he not be?). What’s more, Largan has further Trivial Pursuit credentials, since he recently revealed that his grandfather was part of the team that built the original Whitefield Synagogue. So voting Tory would hardly be an endorsement (I hope) of right wing supremist, anti-yidden politics.

But, like the first dress you see when embarking on the marathon shopping spree to find that special outfit, my heart continually reverts to Ivan.

Setting aside that I ‘ve had professional dealings with him and found him to be a fair and committed politician, Ivan’s background in social welfare issues is exemplary.

Prior to his election in 1997, he worked for Outreach, learning disabilities support group Contact Community Care Group — which he helped to create, aged 19 — and as Chief Executive of Manchester Jewish Federation.

What’s more, he served his time on Bury Council after being elected at 23, and held the position of chairman of its Social Services Committee.

So , you see my dilemma. Do you vote for man or party?

One point repeatedly made by those who have already nailed their red flag to the mast is that surely it’s better to have a Jewish MP — from any party — than not, since it can surely only help serve our interests.

And indeed Ivan has acknowledged that Labour has a serious problem with antisemitism and expressed outrage that Ken Livingstone wasn’t expelled. Surely, whether in government or opposition, we need the Jewish people represented at every level.

And yet, does it help?. For despite MPs like Ivan, Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman, the Labour Party continues to manifest a toxic inability to discharge the issues of antisemitism.

Anyway, some of the most vocal challengers on the subject aren’t even Jewish — not least John Mann MP, who has often been cited as the most vocal and effective opponent of antisemitism in the Commons

What should make my dilemma easier this time around is that I’m a natural Tory supporter — Theresa May is my guilty pleasure. (Aside from her stance on antisemitism, all that strong, stable stuff on the economy, grammar schools, opportunity and, of course, her **** off footwear is so comforting.)

Square that not only with Labour’s hatred of Israel and antisemitism, but with the sheer chaos of the party whose back-of-a-fag- packet policy making can only plunge us into further financial uncertainty. With four children, that is something significant.

I bumped into Ivan recently and revealed my dilemma. He just smiled and said “vote with your conscience. I’m sure you’ll do the right thing”.

I appreciated his response — no attempts at water cooler electioneering or a personal blast from the stump.

Pity that doing the right thing — either way — never felt so wrong.

See all our Election 2017 coverage here

May 10, 2017 19:31

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